Dear HonestReporting Member,
The National Post, one of Canada’s leading daily newspapers, has consistently reported the Middle East situation in fair, accurate terms. The Post’s editorial staff is not afraid to criticize the Palestinian Authority, even when the rest of the world is turning a blind eye to Arafat’s orchestrated campaign of violence and terror.
We therefore proudly present the National Post of Canada with this month’s HonestReporting Award.
Read the Post’s editorial below, and write a letter of thanks to:
“A STEP CLOSER TO WAR”
National Post of Canada
June 4, 2001
Even before the terrorist bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub killed 20 people on Friday, open war between Israel and the Palestinian Authority appeared more likely than not. Now it carries an air of inevitability. For nearly two weeks, Israel has observed a self-imposed unilateral ceasefire, but its restraint has come at a frightful price.
Two days before the attack on the Pacha nightclub, Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident who serves as Housing Minister in the Likud-led government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, promised that, “If Arafat does not take this opportunity to stop the violence, Israel’s next step will likely be to go to war.” Mr. Sharon himself warned that Israel could not avoid retaliation much longer. Even the normally reserved Israeli President Moshe Katsav, on a visit to Washington last week, told American officials: “Our patience is not unlimited,” and suggested Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, had “a few days, no more” to halt violence by his forces or face a full-scale attack “on the centres and sources of terrorism.”
In addition to demonstrating its sincere desire for peace, Israel’s ceasefire has been designed to win the international community and Western media over to a fairer and clearer-sighted interpretation of what is happening in the region. By launching no pre-emptive or retaliatory strikes, Israel has sought to prove that the aggressors in the intifada have been, and continue to be, Mr. Arafat and the various militant groups that operate with his acquiescence. In part, the ceasefire has been a last-ditch plea to media outlets that sympathize with the Palestinian cause, such as the CBC and BBC, to see Mr. Arafat for what he is: an autocrat who often stokes violence for his own political purposes.
It is difficult to know yet whether the effort has succeeded. Coverage hostile to Israel abated after last summer’s Camp David peace negotiations collapsed. Israel’s then prime minister, Ehud Barak, had agreed to cede nearly all of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, to halt all new Jewish settlements there and to carve Jerusalem in half, giving the PA control over a section that contained important holy sites.
Mr. Arafat’s rejection of these terms without even making a counteroffer made many of his supporters in Western governments and newsrooms question his commitment to peace, but only momentarily. The Palestinian dictator then went home and, one month later, sent waves of adolescent rock-throwers to challenge Israeli soldiers so that their poignant deaths might swing opinion back in his favour. He blamed the violence on a visit by Mr. Sharon to Temple Mount — although the PA had been informed of the visit in advance, and Mr. Arafat’s own underlings admit that the new intifada had been planned before that. Logic and all the evidence make it plain that Israel has no interest in perpetuating hostilities and would dearly love the violence to end. Yet even when Israelis are ripped limb from limb by bombs or raging mobs, news reports and commentary spuriously suggest a moral equivalence between Palestinian terrorism and Israeli self-defence or reprisals.
For the past eight years, from Oslo through Hebron, the Wye Plantation and Camp David, Israel has agreed to greater concessions at each step of the peace process — more land, more power for the PA, more guns to the Palestinian “police,” more shared jurisdiction, more aid. Most recently, it agreed to honour the Mitchell Report’s recommendation of an immediate cessation of hostilities even as Palestinian assaults escalated in number and severity. Each time, only one demand has been made of the Palestinians — that they stop their violence against Israel and live in peace.
The massive death toll from the most recent attack induced Mr. Arafat to soften a bit. On Saturday, Mr. Arafat declared in a broadcast Arabic statement that he condemned the Tel Aviv bombing and sought “an immediate and unconditional real and effective cease-fire.” These were welcome words given Mr. Arafat’s propensity to talk of peace in English and war in Arabic. Yet as soon as the words were broadcast, Hamas and other extremist groups that operate from within the PA said their suicide attacks would continue. Will Mr. Arafat take measures to rein them in permanently? It seems doubtful, given that he has always retreated to violent methods himself when they suited him. Moreover, officials within his government still call for the destruction of the Jewish state. Even the schoolbooks the PA supplies to grade schools show a Palestinian nation that covers all of Israel. The theme of jihad is omnipresent in the Palestinian media. Lisping Palestinian children of seven or eight years old dressed in paramilitary garb are paraded around the PA engaged in mock battle with the Israeli enemy.
Given Mr. Arafat’s condemnation of the most recent terrorist attack and his apparent desire for a ceasefire, the Israeli government should resist retaliation — for now. But if further terrorist attacks prompt Israel to commence military operations against Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, it will be because the Israeli people have tried the path of peace — and found that it led only to an escalation of terrorist murder.
NOTE: The U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering H.R. 1795, “The Middle East Commitments Act of 2001.” The act seeks to impose sanctions on the Palestinian Authority for refusing to fulfill its commitments made during various peace agreements — e.g. abstaining from incitement, renouncement of terrorism, and collecting illegal weapons. Click on the link to contact your representative in Congress, asking him/her to support H.R. 1795:
(Alert courtesy of JAT Action and the National Unity Coalition for Israel)